The Leap Stories #3: Correne Wilkie

Instead of putting on a suit and starting a job at the ad agency she’d been negotiating for months, at twenty-something Correne Wilkie put on her jeans, called her mum and told her she was going into resign from a job she hadn’t started yet. And her mum said the best words a parent could say, ‘Go for it.’

Turns out that instead of taking the jump in to the relative security of full time employment, a night at the pub watching six passionate musicans belt out tunes convinced Corenne to take the leap to become the manager of the then unknown band called The Cat Empire.

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Correne Wilkie, photographed by Claudio Oyacre at Plug2Studio.



I met Correne Wilkie when we were both speaking at Clare Bowditch’s Big Hearted Business Unconference in 2014. Correne is the band manager for the now very well known The Cat Empire, and was the opening speaker on Day 1. I was sitting in the audience with a pen in hand, but I couldn’t possibly keep up with the wisdom and inspiration that I was hearing. She gave me goosebumps all over (which I got again, during this interview).

She asked us in the audience LOTS of questions about our vision for our future…

If money was not a consideration, what would it feel like to give yourself a new start, from this very moment, to start over?

What would you commit to doing?

Who would you commit to being?

What would you stand for?

What would you believe in?

What would you do?

What could you do all day, everyday and never get sick of?

What qualities from your childhood do you want to capture and take forward with you in your ideal life?

If that little voice inside you could rise up and speak, what would it say?

She challenged us to remember what we love doing and what is unique to our ourselves. She said things like…

‘If you’re not clear on what you want for yourself, other people will be clear on what they want from you. And you live out their lives, instead of your own.’

and

‘Don’t see them as competitors, but rather as your community.’

I think Correne’s story and view on life could possibly contain the most quotable wisdom I’ve ever published.

Thank you Correne for sharing your leap story with us. And thanks for giving me ‘Gutter Cleaning Man Geoff’s’ phone number at the photo shoot too.

What did you want to be when you grew up and why?

I remember loving making speeches or being the one chosen to hand over an award at assembly. I loved representing the school. I loved being the ‘monitor’ for anything. I was captain of everything – even the sports team, despite the fact I had no sporting prowess whatsoever. I was proud of achievements. I loved mentoring the younger kids or being in things like the buddy programmes. I loved music – singing mostly. I started choirs, school magazines, all sorts of groups. I was in school plays, on the debating team. It was important to me that I had the respect of the teachers and my peers. I think these were all indicators of an early natural leadership quality. I guess I did want to lead… doing something I loved… but I couldn’t have articulated that at the time.

What did/do you study?

I did the first year of a Business Marketing degree, and quit it because I thought it was all common sense and I was bored. So I swapped over to a Bachelor of Arts with a double Major in Writing and Literature. I’m about to do a shoe making course with my mum… maybe that will open up a new career!?

What has been your most scary/courageous leap you’ve ever made (preferably in your business/career/life direction)?

I first met Felix when he was 16 and I was about 22. Three years later he called me out of the blue and asked me to come and see his band (The Cat Empire) play their third show. He told me I was the only person he knew who knew about ‘events and marketing and things’ and thought I might be able to help in some way. I headed down to the venue the next night, and witnessed the incredible sight of six musicians playing their hearts out in the corner of a small room, to an audience who were dancing their arses off! I was so captivated, all my hair was standing on end, I had goose bumps all over – my friend with me at the time says I fell into a trance that night that I have never come out of!

The next morning, instead of starting the new job with a big Melbourne advertising agency that I had negotiated for months, I found myself driving to their office in jeans and a t-shirt. Before I knew it, I was telling the owner of the ad agency that I wasn’t going to take the job, something else had come up.

I met with the band later that day, and offered them 3 months of my time without pay to see what was possible.

The rest is history! Turns out a lot was possible, and still is…


Say hello to Correne in this video. Can you spot her on the job with the band? (If you’re getting this post via email and can’t see the video, click here.)

 

What were you doing before you made your leap?

I had been travelling around Indonesia and other parts of Asia for 5 months after leaving the position of Event Manager for Youth Week Victoria, which I had done for 3 years in a row – an initiative that aimed at mobilising youth culture, to create a positive impact on young peoples lives. I was about to embark on an advertising career but found myself leaping toward something else instead.

Who have been the biggest 3 – 5 influences in your life, in terms of your career and doing work?

– My Mum and Dad who both have entreprenuerial spirit and are not afraid of taking risks.

– The band members of The Cat Empire; working with anyone for 13 years is a big commitment, like a marriage. We have had our ups and downs, and I have learnt so much about myself through managing them and their career/s.

– One of my gorgeous girlfriends who is at the top of her chosen field and a leader within this country. I learn from her process of balancing leadership with her core values of always doing the right thing by her family.

– And an American man we came across early in the band’s career who had the mantra ‘Call ’em up!’ Whoever it is, whatever you need, make the call and ask, you’ll be surprised what you can achieve by just placing a call!
[Tweet “‘Call ’em up! Whatever you need, make the call & ask.’ – Correne Wilkie #theleapstories””]

What did you have in place before you made the leap?

No contacts. No role models. No blue prints to work off. No money. No knowledge of the industry. Nothing but truck loads of belief, energy, conviction, ideas.

It’s not who you know, it’s not what you know, it’s what you believe in and are willing to throw yourself in to.

[Tweet “It’s not what you know, it’s what you believe in & are willing to throw yourself in to – Corrine Wilkie”]

What was your defining ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment that lead you to the leap?

I didn’t have one of those. I never stay anywhere to the point where I can’t stand it – life is too short. I don’t think it is wise to leap ‘away’ from things. I prefer to leap ‘toward’ things.

How did/do you overcome/work with the fear that comes with leaping? How do you decide to choose courage?

What I do now is actually the nexus of everything I had ever done and loved before it. Marketing, mentoring, music, pr, travel, leadership, business, advertising. It is where all my worlds came together. I don’t remember fear at the time. I remember excitement and adrenaline and clarity. I would say I was operating on auto-pilot. It was partly courage, but it’s possible it was more like a form of madness! I just had a feeling that it was my time to do something different, throw caution to the wind.

The way I look at it, we can all always go back to wherever we were. I could always go back to an event job, someone else can always go back to the bank job, or the cleaning job or the sales position. So if you’re looking for a safety net, maybe there is one in thinking ‘that job or one like it will always exist for me’. But after stepping out and taking a chance, people rarely find themselves going back to where they were. Courageous choices have their own way of being rewarded, and it may not be more money, but it might be more freedom, or more time, or greater inspiration… there are loads of currencies by which to measure ‘success’ by, so you need to come up with your own definition of what that is.

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What other leaps have you made in the past?

I leapt in and out of a lot of relationships in my 20s and early 30s – does that count?!

Deciding once and for all to leap IN with my partner, the father of my 1 year old was a MASSIVE leap.

Having a baby.

Buying property.

Cutting my fringe!

Living overseas.

We leap every day. Don’t underestimate even the smallest leap if it is moving you forward.

 

How would you rate your level of happiness about making your leap?

1 being sad, 10 being rad
10 – I can’t imagine another outcome, but I’m also sure I would have been happy with other leaps as well. It’s not the leaping itself that makes a person happy, it’s what you do when you get there, and then what you do next… it’s an ongoing journey… you can’t just take one big leap and assume you have arrived.

What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?

With the band I have travelled to every corner of the world;

…Sold well over two million records;

…Amassed number one debuts – and top 20 in 6 countries on the album we released last year;

…Headline spots on some of the world’s biggest festivals;

…Secured lucrative local and international record deals;

…Top spots on TV shows like Letterman and Leno;

…And a long list of great outcomes.

But personally what really matters to me is that I have made a great living doing what I love. I have been constantly challenged, met amazing people, had phenomenal life experiences, found a way to integrate having a family, created enormous autonomy and freedom for myself, and made it possible for eight gifted musicians to make a living from their art.

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Correne Wilkie, photographed by Claudio Oyacre at Plug2Studio.

 

What’s the biggest downside to making the leap?

None. OK, the furrow between my eyebrows is a result of a lot of thinking and processing of big decisions – I would prefer not to have that, but I refuse to inject pig fat (or whatever botox is) into any part of me!

I certainly don’t wish I had climbed the ladder in the advertising world.

That being said, I also think there is great wisdom in knowing where NOT to leap. The girlfriend I mentioned above was recently offered the top job in her field, something she has been working toward for almost 20 years. But at this point in her life, she has a young child at home, and despite the incredible allure of the position she was offered, the money it would give her, and all the other things the role entailed, she decided the sacrifice of time with her daughter while she is little was too great. She declined the position. She decided not to leap. She has the self assurance of knowing that she will be offered other opportunities in the future. She still has 20+ years of working life left. Sometimes we need to pull back and look at the big timeline ahead of us, and pace our leaps accordingly. Everything doesn’t have to happen today.

What might be your next leap?

A leap into another industry altogether? Maybe natural medicine? Maybe jewellery making? Property development? Who knows…? I’m always open to change. I’m giving myself permission to change my mind and do something different, I usually find I’m happy to stay where I am. It’s only when I feel trapped without the option to change that I feel like I want to get out!

I leapt into parenthood 18 months ago – BIG BIG leap. I’m happy to have my feet on the ground with her and her daddy for a while before I look to leap again!

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What are your favourite words to live by?

The old cliche: ‘Do what you love’, and importantly ‘love what you do’.

 

Who do you admire who also made the leap?

My partner has made a few leaps, and has always found himself in a better place as a result of the courage it takes to leap.

 

A piece of advice for someone with an itch to leap?

Jump.

Now.

And now…

And now…

And now…

Right now I’m:

Hearing: Fingers on keyboards all around me – it’s two days before the start of a national tour, and everyone has their heads down.
Eating: Grilled salmon and rice, from the Japanese shop around the corner
Drinking: Bragg Organic Apple cider vinegar and honey drink – trying to chase out the stomach parasite I got in Portugal on tour recently!
Reading: Tour budgets…
Loving: My 18 month old baby girl Frankie, and her daddy who is celebrating his birthday today!

Thank you Correne! There were so many quotable quotes within these words! It was hard to pull out my favourites. Here’s one more to get you thinking…

correne-quote2What connected with you reading Correne’s story? Did you find yourself with goosebumps like I did? And, importantly, what’s your definition of success?

Kylie x


 

NEXT WORKSHOP

Content Kin Girragirra Central West NSW Content Marketing Social Media Workshop

Our next #ContentKin Content Marketing and Social Media Workshop for Business is Monday 4 May 2015, at Girragirra Retreat in Forbes, Central West NSW – yep, we’re taking it to regional Australia!

This is a creative and interactive workshop for businesses, exploring social media and content planning ideas and challenges. At the end of the day you’ll walk away with a defined social media and content strategy, and an actionable plan. And it will be fun! There will be coloured pens, piles of post it notes, chocolates and a room full of wholehearted biz types like you. Check out a little video of what you can expect here:

Tickets via the link (and being snapped up by regional creatives quickly!): contentkinforbes.eventbrite.com

See you there! x

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